What are Floaters?

Floaters are objects which interrupt and affect a person’s vision by coming across the field of vision. They can often be small and highly mobile.

On their own they can hinder clarity of vision and are more noticeable when looking against a clear background such as a white wall or blue sky. They are very common particularly in people who are short sighted or above the age of forty.

What Causes Floaters?

Floaters are small pieces of debris that float around in the vitreous (this is the jelly inside the eye). Floaters are actually clumps of collagen fibrils (small or slender fibres) which have formed from the degeneration of the vitreous.

They can get in the way of the light passing through the vitreous thereby casting a shadow on the retina. The vitreous commonly separates from the retina in our mid forties and fifties in a process known as a posterior vitreous detachment. This can result in an increase in floaters which can be obstructive to a person’s daily activities.

Floaters Eye Wales

Ageing of the Vitreous

When we are born our eyes contain vitreous or jelly which is very cohesive. As we get older the vitreous changes composition and becomes more like water. In this process clumps of collagen in the vitreous can become stuck together causing floaters.

At one point in life usually in our forties and fifties, the entire vitreous shrinks and moves away from the retinal surface in a process known as a posterior vitreous detachment. This can result in the formation of noticeable floaters. The appearance of floaters is also more common following cataract surgery.

How can Floaters be Treated?

In most cases floaters are more annoying than actually harmful. Most people find that over time you will adapt and stop noticing that the floaters are there. A good way of moving an annoying floater is to look up and down repeatedly as this could help to move it from your vision. If you do this the vitreous will move about and could help to shift the floater to a place in your eye that isn’t as visible.

If you feel that your floaters have a marked negative effect on your sight, the only way to definitively remove them is with a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy, which removes the vitreous from the eye.

Vitrectomy involves microscopic ‘keyhole’ surgery in the eye and is performed as a day procedure. Once the vitreous is removed a thorough search for any retinal breaks is performed, and the vitreous is replaced with either air or gas. The air or gas bubble can take a minimum of two weeks to dissipate from the eye. You will be given eye drops which you must use for a month after surgery.

Once the vitreous gel including the floaters has gone, it does not grow back. The eye is able to function perfectly well without it.

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